Do what scares you.
What happens when your best choice is your most challenging choice?
Janine De Klerk '13 had been skeptical at first, unsure that any one university or program would do. A science degree seemed the most obvious—she wanted a career in medicine, after all—and yet she hesitated; she wasn't ready to relinquish her love of writing, to relegate it to when-possible course electives and already-fleeting free time. She doubted she'd have much choice, let alone one best choice, in suitable programs.
That all changed when she found the McMaster Arts and Science Program.
The interdisciplinary program meant she could pursue both passions—both art and science—without sacrifice, without being sorted and siloed as just another science major. Janine rejoiced. It was the answer she had been looking for, her best choice.
There was just one hitch to this otherwise perfect program: she would have to move across the country.
Sep. 2012 - Meadowridge School: Janine (far right) and a group of friends show off their new grad ties.
Any move—let alone a 4,300-kilometre move to Ontario—would have been significant for Janine, a self-professed introvert. She wanted to stay close to home, close to its comforts and her friends and family. Even so, even as a barely-out-of-high-school graduate, she knew abandoning comfort for challenge would serve her well. "I knew if I didn't push myself," Janine smiles, "I wouldn't grow."
So, she made the move.
She loved McMaster. She could explore whatever fascinated her, unrestrained by a traditional degree. Not having to choose was the best choice possible: she got to explore writing and physics, rhetoric and chemical kinetics, debate and density. There was no either-or. "It was everything I could have dreamed of," Janine shares.
"I knew if I didn't push myself," Janine smiles, "I wouldn't grow."
The dreaded move turned out to be not-so-dreadful at all. Janine was motivated, continuing to push-through the limitations she had once set for herself. A once-decided "non-joiner", Janine joined. She joined Writer's Anonymous, a creative writing club, and co-chaired the MS Student Society as Vice President. She joined the McMaster Alzheimer's Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Unite for Sight, and the Medicine and Health Society. She even moved into a house with friends from her program. Each day, they'd continue their conversations from class, assembled around a board game or two.
Janine definitely made the most of her time at McMaster, building a fulfilling four-year experience.
She persevered through every challenge set. She moved across the country, made new friends, wrote short stories, joined clubs and even led them. "I wanted to speak in front of people, to be a leader, to write, and to learn all sorts of skills," Janine asserts, "and I knew the only way I could do that was to throw myself into challenge."
So, after earning her degree, Janine returned home with a plan:
She was going to apply to dentistry school.
She was going to write.
And she was going to continue challenging herself.
That's just what she did.
Janine didn't have to think for too long about her challenge. "I realized on the plane ride home," she smiles, "I wanted to host a creative writing club." She didn't have to think for too long about where she'd do it, either: "Meadowridge," she nods, "I knew I wanted to come back to Meadowridge."
"I wanted to speak in front of people, to be a leader, to write, and to learn all sorts of skills," Janine asserts, "and I knew the only way I could do that was to throw myself into challenge."
She got to work straightaway, developing a club proposal and pitching it to the school's administration. When the club was given the go-ahead, she was delighted. Twenty students signed up right away. Janine, once reserved and reluctant, took reign. "It was totally scary at first," Janine confesses, "but it turned out to be the best experience."
The club was a huge success. Students enjoyed daily activities, learning how to write everything from poetry to prose. Students explored characters, setting, dialogue, and world-building. Janine marvelled at students' work; "It was mind-blowing."
Janine, likewise, reveled in the experience. Like every step, choice, and challenge she took-on since her move to McMaster, she did the things she once said she couldn't: She taught, she wrote, she guided, and she led.
In embracing one challenging best choice (and then another, and another...), she found herself.
Janine De Klerk '13 is currently back home in Maple Ridge, working at a retirement community while waiting to hear back from dentistry school. She is looking forward to hosting another term of her creative writing club at Meadowridge, while also doing some of her own writing on the side; this future dentist hopes to one day publish a science-fiction novel.
Left: 2017 - McMaster University - Graduation day for Janine.